December 3, 2009
DISCOUNTED UTILITY RATES FOR SENIORS
By: Kevin E. McCarthy, Principal Analyst
You asked for a description of recent legislation in Connecticut that would have provided a utility rate discount for seniors. You also wanted to know whether utilities in other New England states provide such discounts.
UTILITY DISCOUNTS FOR SENIORS
In the past five years, the legislature has considered three bills affecting utilities and seniors, but none were adopted. In 2007, HB 5469 would have created a state Electric Procurement Authority, which would have been authorized to procure power for residents 62 and older, residents with disabilities, and low income residents. The authority could only enter into contracts to buy this power if this would result in rates that were at least 10% below the rates charged for standard service (the service for residential and small business customers who have not chosen a competitive supplier). The bill was favorably reported by the Energy and Technology, Environment, Appropriations, and Finance, Revenue and Bonding committees, but the House took no action on it. Also in 2007, HB 5469 would have allowed seniors to call in their monthly bill readings. The bill was referred to the Energy and Technology Committee, which took no action on it. In HB 6040 would have exempted customers 65 and older from interest and penalties on utility bills. The bill was referred to the Energy and Technology Committee, which took no action on it.
We found only two energy utilities in the other New England states (both municipal electric utilities in Massachusetts) that provide discounts specifically to seniors. Littleton Electric Light Department waives the base customer charge for senior citizens (age 62 and over) and handicapped persons. Middleborough Gas and Electric Department allows customers 60 years and older to apply for a 5% senior discount, which is added to the 10% prompt payment discount when the bill is paid within 10 days and the account is current. In addition, under Massachusetts Department of Public Utility (DPU) regulations (220 CMR 25.00), an electric, gas, or water company can only terminate service to a household consisting entirely of people 65 and older if the company first gives written notice to the Executive Office of Elder Affairs and obtains DPU's written approval. Finally, a number of energy utilities provide discounts for their low income customers of all ages, and such discounts are required in Maine and Massachusetts.
In addition, several telecommunications companies provide discounts for seniors. For example, Cox Cable provides a discount to its elderly subscribers in Rhode Island and Verizon Wireless offers rate plans nationally for subscribers 65 and older.